Cycling with Grace in Malawi

Success stories, In the field, Women's rights, Youth, Blogs article written on the 16 Oct 2018

Education gives young people a path out of poverty. But the pathway to education is, quite literally, long and bumpy in Southern Malawi. So Oxfam Malawi is breaking the cycle of poverty with… well, with cycles.

Grace* (pictured above) lives miles away from the nearest high school in Balaka district, Malawi. She used to brave the two-hour walk to class each morning but boys would harass her along the way. This caused Grace much distress and made her dread the long walk to school.

These exhausting walks to and from school deter many girls like Grace from completing their studies. In Malawi, 54% of secondary school age girls are not in education.

And without proper education, girls can easily become ensnared in a cycle of poverty. So Oxfam Malawi cooked up a simple solution to keep girls in school: bikes.

Photo: Corinna Kern/Oxfam

Photo: Corinna Kern/Oxfam

We gave bikes to Grace and the schoolgirls in her community. With her new set of wheels, Grace has a new lease on life and learning.

“Before I got the bike, I got home late from school and was too tired to do my homework,” she recalls. “If I was given an exercise to do by the teacher, I would not do well.”

“But with this bike, I’m often the first at school.”

Photo: Corinna Kern/Oxfam

Now, Grace enjoys her commute. She speeds past the boys who used to bother her, and spends more time in class.

Even the people who used to discourage me have started saying that I am really strong, courageous and focused,” Grace says.

Grace is one of at least 30 girls in schools across Southern Malawi to receive a bicycle. The selection process was overseen by a committee of community leaders, including teachers, department heads, a village chief and local partners.

Photo: Corinna Kern/Oxfam

Photo: Corinna Kern/Oxfam

Empowered by her new wheels and newfound confidence, Grace encourages her friends not to drop out of school. She explains, “My aim is to be a role model and disprove all those who used to discourage girls from learning. And show that girls are not meant for marriage alone.

“I want to show them that I can be educated and able to help my family.

“If you teach a girl, you’re teaching the whole nation.”